Bartering of services = where karma and collaboration collide. Each party pays it forward by helping a fellow entrepreneur, while getting something in return.
When you’re both at the same level, this can be an awesome way to cross some business needs off your list, and take it to the next level. (You know, like a logo for your brand, killer headshots, or even some sponsored Facebook ads to promote your biz.)
If managed correctly, this bartering strategy can bring new meaning to “your network is your net worth.” After all, when you’re a new entrepreneur hustling out of the gate, every saved penny counts, especially when your “to do” list is growing in tandem.
For two entrepreneurs more or less at the same “level,” exchanging services can be part of your secret weapon. And if done strategically, it can be a totally boss move.
Spoiler alert: it can take a turn to disaster territory if you’re not on the same page. So if you do decide to straight-up exchange services with a fellow she-entrepreneur, you need to make sure you’re not only scratching each other’s backs, but helping each other rise.
Here are 5 ways to make swapping a key to your success.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Don’t dismiss the work you’re doing as part of the trade as “free work.” Seeing the big picture is key. So if the opportunity strikes and you connect with someone proposing a service exchange, hear her out. While following your gut is always sound practice (and recommended if someone is acting shady), it’s important to keep an open mind and listen to the proposal. If it simply doesn’t make sense for you — perhaps timing isn’t right at this point or you’re unsure about the fit — then pass and consider it in the future. But if there is potential for you to help someone else while they offer you something in return, then the sky’s the limit.
This new approach to a business relationship needs to happen organically and naturally. The connection might strike up at a female conference or networking event, while hustling at a communal workspace (all the better if it’s a “female-only” one), or even as part of a “members only” Facebook group.
Side note: We don’t recommend tweeting out that you’re looking for “a service exchange,” for any rando to reach out to you. It helps when you’re in a circle of like-minded people, in a *somewhat* vetted community. It’s one of those magical things that can happen in convo, while making connections.
So now that this is on your radar, you’re more likely to spot a potentially awesome opportunity. (You’re welcome.)
MAKE YOUR TERMS CRYSTAL CLEAR
Transparency: Get that on lock. Have a candid conversation about each other’s needs and the terms of your “agreement.” This can mean the scope of work on each side and the conditions of your turnaround time (it’s not fair to email your collaborator and demand something ASAP). Put simply: what each of you is offering needs to be fair and on a level playing field. As much as you might like the person you’ve partnered up with for this exchange, if the person has zero chill, then you’ll need to put the agreement “on ice” and stop it then and there.
Your self-care, work-life balance, reputation, and peace of mind should never be a tradeoff. So if the other person isn’t respecting your boundaries, you need to peace out.
TREAT IT AS A PAYING, ‘REAL’ CLIENT (AKA GO ABOVE & BEYOND)
Tbh, this can be challenging when the paying gigs start to pile on, so make sure to manage expectations and block off your calendar accordingly when you have incoming requests. (Super important: ensure you have time to commit to the ask, even if it’s not for actual income).
As tempting as it might be to prioritize paying customers, you need to shift your mindset and realize that your “trade” is a paying customer. It’s not fair to put off those requests or not give them the same quality and attention you would for anyone else.
You are as good as your word and your final product, so be respectful of timelines, deadlines and boundaries. And of course, this is a two-way street.
Also, since you do have bills to pay, be logical and balance your barter agreements with paying clients. As lovely as it is to help each other out by exchanging services, you need to be practical and earn those dollaz.
PSA: like regular income, there can be tax implications when bartering services (even if no actual monetary transaction occurs). Ask your accountant about this to avoid any surprises.
CONSIDER IT CONTENT FOR YOUR PORTFOLIO
Going above and beyond will ensure you produce quality content, which can in turn be used as part of your portfolio (if she agrees). This is what we mean by big picture: yes, when a ton of deadlines are on your plate, you might feel resentful that you committed to the “service exchange”; but remember that the person you’re supporting is a client, who likely has a network of potential clients in turn. So impress her, and your client base can grow exponentially as well.
Tip: Ask the person you’re exchanging services with to write a testimonial for you on your site and LinkedIn, and do the same for her.
KNOW WHEN TO MOVE ON, CHARGE & PAY
The point is to help each other rise — and once you earn the revenue stream you need, it’s time to empower the other person and start compensating them.
The trick is to know when to move on from the “barter” relationship, to the “big time.” Because once you both make it big, it’s time to pay for each other’s services — and soar together.
Karin Eldor is a writer specializing in career, fashion and lifestyle. After several years in the corporate world as the Social Media Manager and Copywriter at ALDO, she took her side hustle full-time and is now living out her dream as a contributor for COVETEUR, Levo, Shopify, 818 Agency, and of course Create & Cultivate. Her mission is to offer guidance and mentorship to women by aligning with brands that value self-expression, integrity and impact. Follow her on Insta @alwayskarin.